GENEVA — Venezuelan special forces have carried out thousands of extrajudicial killings in the past 18 months and then manipulated crime scenes to make it look as if the victims had been resisting arrest, the United Nations said on Thursday in a report detailing wide-ranging government abuses targeting political opponents.
Special Action Forces described by witnesses as “death squads” killed 5,287 people in 2018 and another 1,569 by mid-May of this year, in what are officially termed by the Venezuelan government “Operations for the Liberation of the People,” United Nations investigators reported.
Laying out a detailed description of a lawless system of oppression, the report says the actual number of deaths could be much higher. It cites accounts by independent groups who report more than 9,000 killings for “resistance to authority” over the same period.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that many of these killings constitute extrajudicial executions committed by the security forces,” the investigators said.
The report, which the United Nation human rights chief Michelle Bachelet will present to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday, delivers a scathing critique of President Nicolás Maduro’s embattled government and its handling of Venezuela’s deepening political and economic crisis.
Since 2016, the report says, the government has pursued a strategy “aimed at neutralizing, repressing and criminalizing political opponents and people critical of the government.”
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